Despite repeated requests and urging from senior representatives of the chareidi sector, the Transportation Ministry insisted on conducting infrastructure work on the railway at the Ayalon Highway this past Shabbos amidst public Shabbos desecration, lo aleinu.
The Transportation Ministry and the police announced ahead of time that work would be done on the Ayalon Highway. The work involved no pikuach nefesh and could have been conducted on any weekday evening, as most work of this kind is done.
But shamefully, the Ministry openly mocked the Shabbos observant public and Shabbos itself by designating this work for Shabbos, from 11:00 at night on Friday night until 4:00 the next afternoon.
The news caused much aggravation among the Shabbos-observant public. Rabbanim and public figures, as well as activists on behalf of Shabbos, raised a hue and cry and issued a call to cancel the nonurgent work.
Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman appealed to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and pointed out the severity of the issue. He urged him to intervene to prevent the desecration. “This work is not urgent and has no connection to pikuach nefesh. This is serious Shabbos desecration and everything must be done to prevent it,” he said. The minister added to Minister Katz that the work contravened the agreement reached between the heads of the chareidi parties and the Transportation Ministry, in coordination with the prime minister, a short time ago and asked that the date be changed.
Knesset Finance Committee Chairman Rabbi Moshe Gafni, expressed his pain over the planned Shabbos desecration that was unjustified. He also appealed to the transportation minister to stop the work and postpone it.
But all these pleas fell on deaf ears, and the work took place on Shabbos day, in violation of all agreements.
Rabbi Litzman vehemently objected at the Cabinet meeting to the Transportation Minister for what happened and said that the act violated the Jewish character of the state, and the status quo that has been in place for so many years.
Minister Katz clarified that he has no intention of violating the agreement and the work was carried out due to an arrangement with Welfare Minister Chaim Katz, who had been assigned to deal with the matter. Rabbi Litzman rejected this claim and said that Shabbos cannot be a pawn in the hands of government ministers who throw the blame from one to the other. He noted that chareidi Jewry is united in its approach to bring an immediate halt to this breach.
Chairman of the Public Appeals Committee MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler said on Sunday that there is an inherent contradiction between a government that desecrates Shabbos and the nation that sanctifies Shabbos in Eretz Yisrael. Since the establishment of the state, Torah-true Judaism has lived in the shadow of this contradiction, as the state preserved the status quo and we protested for the honor of Shabbos. But when the status quo is violated through tricks between ministers, the state loses its right to rule in the Holy Land.
United Torah Judaism has the right to demand the immediate suspension of all such violations, even without breaking off from the coalition. If the government violates its obligations, we are not obligated to vote for the other government laws in the Knesset, Rabbi Eichler said.
Rabbi Gafni noted that despite the claims of the Labor Minister that the workers were not Jewish and that the work had been scaled back, it was still a violation of Shabbos and everything has to be done to stop this shameful trend.
MK Rabbi Uri Maklev said that we are warning and complaining not only about the actual work on Shabbos, but no less about the policy of doing such work on Shabbos in the first place. This kind of work is not the result of a pressing need, but rather of a policy that puts Shabbos in second place in the order of priorities, with ribbon-cutting ceremonies and dates for completing work deemed more important than Shabbos. That is a painful point that cannot be condoned, when a government ministry tramples the holiness of Shabbos week after week.
Rabbi Maklev said that even when the scope of the Shabbos work was scaled back, it was not because of the Transportation Ministry, but rather because of other ministries that did not approve the work. “It is painful that one ministry has remained with the same policy, and then tries to shift the blame elsewhere,” he said.
At the weekly meeting of the Shas faction Monday, party chairman, Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri addressed the issue and expressed his vehement opposition to what is happening and the need to change it.
“Regretfully, I realize that Shabbos has become a day of maintenance and work on the train. This is very serious. We express our vehement opposition to the rail work on the Ayalon Highway on Shabbos,” he said and added, “I am tasking MKs Rabbi Yoav Ben Tzur and Rabbi Michael Malkieli to study the issue, meet with the relevant entities in the Transportation Ministry and bring figures about the scope of the new Shabbos desecration. We will closely track what is being done.”
It has been noted that infrastructure work that is done on weekdays, amid road closures, is carried out routinely, and that decision to do the work specifically on Shabbos is arbitrary.
For example, on Sunday, the police in the coastal region issued an announcement about infrastructure work on Highway 22 that took place on Monday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. the next morning and that the road would be closed. The police instructed drivers to use alternate routes.